How did you do in meeting your health goals in 2023?
Have you seen them through and made yourself healthier and happier? If so, then well done!
If not, don't worry! You’ll probably know why you didn’t reach your goals, and you can still set exciting new health goals for the next 12 months.
Forget “New Year’s resolutions”
Some estimates and studies put the failure rate of “New Year’s resolutions” at around 80%, with the middle of February being when people break them, on average.
Whatever health goals you set for yourself for 2024, don't call them New Year's resolutions! If you do, you're setting yourself up for failure from day one. Instead, play the long game by setting goals for the whole year but aiming for small wins. You’ll end the year way healthier than people who had a healthy January before losing their way!
Why are health goals important?
By committing to specific health goals, you prioritise your well-being and become more mindful of how your lifestyle affects your health.
Adopting health goals and aiming to improve your health can help you break bad habits, establish good ones, and profoundly impact all areas of your life. You’ll improve your relationships, your performance at work, and how you feel about yourself.
One of the biggest reasons people shy away from setting health goals is that they believe they must set grand aims for themselves. But a health goal can be as simple as dedicating 10 minutes to exercising daily or swapping a favourite food for a healthier alternative. Minor changes are easier to maintain than one significant change and will also deliver a broader range of health benefits!
Five golden rules for setting practical health goals
When setting health goals, there are five golden rules you should follow.
1. Be specific
Popular New Year’s resolutions – or health goals - include “losing weight” and “exercising more.”
Both are worthwhile aims. But they're also very general. For example, you might lose a few pounds in 2024. If you did not do any exercise in 2023, taking one brisk walk in 2024 will mean you will achieve your goal.
But neither of those things has necessarily made you any healthier.
Be specific when setting your goals. If you want to lose weight, consider particular things you can do to help you lose weight. Then, focus on those smaller, specific objectives, and your desired outcome will follow.
Trust the process!
2. Break big goals down into smaller aims
Remember what we said about health goals failing because they’re too big?
Give yourself ambitious goals but build up to them rather than setting yourself up to fail.
Let's say you aim to exercise for 60 minutes a day.
If you currently don't do any exercise at all, suddenly dedicating an hour a day to it is a huge commitment. Plus, throwing yourself into a fitness plan in such a way increases the risk of injuring yourself, which may discourage you from training once you're better.
If you have such a goal, aim to be at that level by the end of 2024.
Break your goal down to make it more achievable so you can celebrate success. For example, you could aim to exercise for 10 – 20 minutes per day between January and March. Once you achieve that goal, you can increase the length or intensity of your exercise throughout the year.
3. Give yourself a break
We're not machines; recognise that when setting your health goals. And you mustn't deem yourself a failure if you don't hit your objective on a given day.
You will have days where you don’t feel like exercising, eating more vegetables, or spending time outside. That’s human nature. And it's okay.
Rather than beating yourself up or forcing yourself to do things you don't want to, have a goal not to miss two days in a row. This will help you kill negative self-talk, reduce internal pressure, and give you something to look forward to when you have a "day off."
4. As well as setting a goal, plan how you can facilitate it
As well as having a goal, ensure you put anything you need in place to help you make it happen.
For example, you might set some health goals at work, such as walking at lunchtime or ensuring you eat lunch away from your desk.
Both are worthy health goals. What can you do to ensure you can achieve them?
- Plan your calendar and workload so you don't find yourself working through lunchtime.
- Choose local landmarks that would make a lunchtime walk exciting and pleasant.
- Find local places where you can enjoy a tasty lunch.
- If you take lunch to work, find pleasant locations to walk to and eat outside.
5. Involve others
You're probably not the only one of your friends or work colleagues who might be looking to make up for lost time with their 2024 health goals!
Planning your goals with others can be an excellent way to mutually encourage each other. You can even turn your 2024 health goals into a friendly challenge!
Even if you focus on your health goals alone, consider telling others what you're doing or keep a journal so you can be accountable to yourself.
Remember to focus on mental as well as physical health
When setting health goals, we often focus solely on physical health.
Although getting more exercise and adopting a better diet will positively affect your mental health, it's also worth setting specific mental health goals.
We already mentioned eating lunch away from your desk. Other simple yet highly impactful mental health goals might include:
- Spending 10 – 15 minutes per day meditating.
- Using a digital well-being app to reduce your phone or tablet screen time and social media use.
- Contacting a different family member or friend each week that you haven’t spoken to recently.
If you are a Now Health International member, your international health insurance plan gives you access to our employee and member assistance programmes, depending on your plan type. These have a wealth of resources that will help you boost both your mental and physical health in the next 12 months and beyond.
Setting new health goals for 2024
In 2024, you can transform your health and positively change your life. Keep your goals simple, and ensure you have everything in place to help you achieve them, and you're sure to have a hugely successful year from a health and well-being perspective.
What health goals are you setting yourself for 2024?